Education concerts take to the road

Over the last few years, the orchestra has been involved in a long term education project that has seen us bring a unique musical programme to thousands of school children, from both mainstream and special schools, the length and breadth of Wales.

Masterminded by our education and community manager, Suzanne Hay, along with Andy Pidcock and conductor Grant Llewellyn, the show brings together sing-a-long pieces written by Andy specifically for the show and familiar classical pieces.

This week, we are off on the road again with our education show, this time for concerts in Tenby and in the sports centre at Cardiff's Sophia Gardens. We will play to over 100 schools, totalling over 4,000 young people.

We have played this show so many times now and every so often, before the show starts, I find myself momentarily thinking, "here we go again!" I always feel slightly ashamed of myself in the next instant.

The children's response to the sheer spectacle of an orchestra playing live is incredible - perhaps this is a wonder that we need to remind ourselves of. We cannot deny that for some of the students, it will be the one and only time they will ever see an orchestra perform live (a sobering thought), while for others, it may be the beginning of a life long love of music.

Due to the persistent hard work of the education team, these shows are not a one-off extravaganza. The show was recently recorded and broadcast on BBC Learning Zone and is also now available as a DVD resource pack that has been made available to all Welsh primary and special schools.

Although I only play a small role in the show, I feel very proud to have been a part of it. When we perform the show for special schools, some of the children are coping with extremely severe physical and mental conditions. At times it can be impossible to tell how much or little they are aware of or able to take in, but that doesn't mean that we should be arrogant enough to decide ourselves that these children's perceived limitations make them less capable than us to appreciate and love music, to be moved by it and to find in it a means for expressing something that may be difficult to put into words.

Music education with the orchestra is not just about box ticking; neither is it about jumping on the bandwagon of something that is very much in vogue at the moment. It is about taking practical steps to make music accessible for everyone, regardless of their age or their abilities.

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